Which is why I have such good ideas. Such as my decision to take all the kids out for lunch during our open house today. A big fancy lunch. At (drumroll) McDonalds! (You are dazzled, are you not, by my originality.)
I live (for now) in a town so small (for now) it doesn’t have a McDonalds. You can drive twenty-some minutes one way or twenty-some minutes in the other direction to find the golden arches. But that was part of my Brilliant Plan. The open house coincided with Wonderboy’s naptime, so I figured I’d let him sleep in the car, we’d go through the drive-through, and he and the baby would both wind up with decent naps while the rest of chipped away at our good health with tasty fries.
And how beautifully the plan unfolded, at first. The boy fell asleep right away, the baby snoozed, and the girls and I sang bad camp songs. Before we knew it, there we were at french fry heaven. Except. There was a sign on the drive-through menu informing us that due to a busted water line, McDonalds had no water.
"Sorry, no soft drinks or coffee," the hand-scrawled message announced.
The kids aren’t allowed soda, and I don’t drink coffee, but still. There was no way I was going to buy food at a place where, hello, the employees couldn’t wash their hands.
Hey, look! Next door: Burger King. But the busted water line? It affected, apparently, the whole block. Burger King had a similar sign.
"Our water is out. No drinks! All food items still available."
Thanks, but no thanks. "Wendy’s?" I suggested. The girls agreed. We drove on, leaving the waterless block behind. Of course there was a Wendy’s not far away, because this is America. It was on the wrong side of the street, though, and in the midst of the maneuvering I had to do to get into the correct lane, Wonderboy awoke from his slumber. And, for no apparent reason, threw up. A lot. All over.
The girls were screaming, retching, holding their noses. Poor Wonderboy was shrieking at the top of his lungs, and who could blame him? That is one lousy way to wake up.
I turned down a side street and pulled into a deserted parking lot. The girls scrambled out onto the baking asphalt. Wonderboy continued to scream. I reached for the basket of spare wipes—and remembered I’d tucked those into Scott’s car just before he left for California. You know, in case he spilled something on the trip.
Hadn’t yet occurred to me to replace them.
There was a burp cloth in the diaper bag. I managed to get Wonderboy’s carseat unbuckled and stripped off his nasty clothing, then mopped him off as best I could. Which wasn’t very well. Mostly I just moved the sick from his body to mine. Because all he wanted was to hug me. Jane used to want the same thing, when chemo was making her throw up all the time. I’m pretty sure it’s a toddler instinct: I will feel much better the second you allow me to smear my vomit in your hair. You are awesome, Mommy. Mind if I throw up just a little more? There was a clean spot on your shirt.
By now, of course, the baby was awake. And unhappy. The girls were melting all over the parking lot, but they were none too eager to get back into the van. Also, they were all starving. Because of course we were now waaaay past lunchtime. And yet, somehow, no one felt much like eating. Go figure.
I got my poor little boy back into his still-pretty-icky-but-only-in-a-soaked-in-way seat and we made our pathetic way back home. "A day will come," I promised my girls, "when we’ll look back on this and laugh our heads off."
Rose was skeptical. "Why would we?"
"Because it will seem funny. I mean, it really IS funny, when you think about it. It just doesn’t FEEL funny now."
"It sure smells funny," said Bean.
"Why is it funny?" persisted Rose.
"I’ll have to explain it later," I said, finding it impossible to expound and hold my breath at the same time.
"I really really have to go to the bathroom," announced Beanie. "REALLY."
I really really want to be nursed, sobbed the baby.
I really really want you to turn back time and make this not have happened, moaned the boy.
I really really want a good shampoo, crackled my hair.
Nope, not quite funny yet. Okay, maybe a little.